Mamallapuram, otherwise known as Mahabalipuram, was my favourite town in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is a sleepy touristy joint, but it also has an astounding cultural heritage. This was also the place where I had one of the more memorable auditory waking experiences in India. I woke up at 6:00 am to the sound of dogs barking and cows mooing in response.
Even though the town is currently only 17K strong, it was once the major seaport of the ancient Pallava kingdom, and it has impressive seaside temples attesting to the former majesty of the place. Most of the temples are monolithic sculptures (i.e. sculptures carved from a single huge block of stone) dating back to the 7th century. Unfortunately, given their proximity to the sea, they have been damaged by water on multiple occasions, including the recent tsunami.
The beach area to the left of the Shore Temple is used mostly by fishermen which makes it stinky, but also a great place to swim if you happen to be with lady friends (leering is a bit of a problem in India). Again, beware of the water here, the waves easily reach 2 metres and change from your footing and the currents are rough:
Shots of the Shore Temple, built under Narashimhavarman II in the 8th century as a tribute to Shiva. The beach pictured above is just to the left of this place. This is the first and only World Heritage archeological site that I have ever visited that offered wifi (free of charge) throughout. Yup, gotta check my email here:
Shots of the Five Rathas. Again, they were all carved out of a single piece of stone in the 7th century:
Shots of Arjuna’s Penance, one of the most amazing relief carvings I have ever seen:
And finally, some shots of Mamallapuram Hill. The big boulder has been colloquialy named, Krishna’s Butterball: